Posts Tagged ‘Mali’

U.S. citizens among hostages seized in Algeria as France battles Islamists in neighboring Mali

January 16, 2013

Washington Post
 Edward Cody, Debbi Wilgoren and Craig Whitlock,

PARIS — Islamist guerrillas seized a number of hostages, including Americans, in a brazen attack early Wednesday on a remote gas-production facility in Algeria, and the United States vowed to take all necessary steps to deal with what it called a “terrorist act.”

Algeria’s official news agency said two people were killed, including a British national, and six were wounded, two of them foreigners, in the attack by what authorities described as a homegrown Algerian terrorist group. There were conflicting accounts of the number of people taken hostage. The agency, Algerie Presse Service, said Algerian troops quickly surrounded the site.

In Rome, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said U.S. officials believe that Americans are among the hostages in Algeria but that they are still trying to determine how many.

“By all indications, this is a terrorist act,” he told reporters after meeting with Italian leaders Wednesday as part of a week-long European trip. “It is a very serious matter when Americans are taken hostage along with others…. I want to assure the American people that the United States will take all necessary and proper steps that are required to deal with this situation.”

Panetta said it remained unclear whether the hostage-takers are connected to al-Qaeda-affiliated groups that France is fighting in northern Mali.

“I do know that terrorists are terrorists, and terrorists take these kinds of actions,” he added. “We’ve witnessed their behavior in a number of occasions where they have total disregard for innocent men and women. This appears to be that kind of situation.”

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack and said 41 hostages were seized, seven of them Americans.

However, Algerie Presse Service (APS) said “a little more than 20 foreign nationals” were captured. It said the hostages were from Norway, Britain, the United States, France and Japan. The captors released Algerian workers in small groups, the agency said.

The assailants arrived in three vehicles and first attacked a bus that was taking foreign workers from the gas-production facility to a local airport, APS said. One foreigner was killed in that attack, and the militants then took over part of the facility and seized hostages, it said.

Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said the attackers were Algerian “terrorists” and vowed that authorities would not negotiate with them.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said the attack was in retaliation for Algeria’s decision to allow France to use its airspace to send warplanes to neighboring Mali, where French forces have been conducting airstrikes and support operations since last week to aid Malian troops in their battle against Islamist insurgents.

“Algeria’s participation in the war on the side of France betrays the blood of the Algerian martyrs who fell in the fight against the French occupation,” a spokesman for the Masked Brigade, an arm of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, told Mauritania’s Nouakchott News Agency.

Panetta: Pentagon may provide ‘limited logistical support’ to French in Mali

January 15, 2013

Washington Post
Craig Whitlock
Jan 16, 2013

LISBON – The Pentagon may become involved in military operations against Islamist rebels in the West African country of Mali by providing airlift and “limited logistical support” to French troops fighting there, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Monday.
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“We have a responsibility to go after al-Qaeda wherever they are,” Panetta told reporters as he began a weeklong trip to Europe. “We’re going after them in Yemen and Somalia, and we have a responsibility to make sure that al-Qaeda does not establish a base for operations in North Africa, in Mali.”U.S. defense officials said they were reviewing requests for assistance from France, which sent troops to Mali on Friday in an urgent attempt to prevent Islamist rebels and other guerrillas from overrunning the ragtag Malian army. Islamist fighters and Tuareg rebels have gained control of the northern half of the country over the past year, enabling al-Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa to function unimpeded in a swath of territory the size of Texas.Panetta declined to provide further details about what kind of military assistance the Pentagon might bring to the conflict, but said one option under consideration would be to deploy transport aircraft that move French troops or equipment.The Obama administration has previously ruled out placing “U.S. boots on the ground” in Mali. Officials traveling with Panetta declined to comment when asked if U.S. transport aircraft might actually land in Mali to help the French, or if the territory remained off limits.The United States, France, the United Nations Security Council and several African countries have been working for months on a joint plan to intervene militarily in Mali, one of the poorest and most remote countries in the world.

The planning, however, has been undermined by strategic disagreements, a lack of firm commitments to send troops and Mali’s internal political dysfunctions. The country’s democratically elected president was toppled last March in a coup led by a rogue Army captain who had received military training in the United States. Factionalism has worsened since then as Islamist fighters have tightened their grip on the northern half of the country.

Another complication is that the United States is prohibited by law from providing direct military assistance to the Malian government because of the coup. The Pentagon had to shut down training and aid programs in Mali last year and remove virtually all military personnel.

The U.S. military already has been sharing intelligence about the Mali rebels with France, an exchange that will continue, according to a senior U.S. defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive operations. The official said the Pentagon was also considering whether to deploy tanker aircraft to Africa to provide mid-air refueling for French warplanes.

The United States has conducted surveillance over Mali for years with satellites, high-altitude Global Hawk drones based in Europe and small PC-12 turboprop planes based in Burkina Faso, on Mali’s southern border.

Flying armed Reaper or Predator drones over Mali is not an immediate option, however; the Pentagon lacks a base in the region for those aircraft.

The turmoil in Mali was triggered, in part, by a flood of fighters and weaponry arriving from Libya after that country’s civil war erupted. When Libyan ruler Col. Moammar Gaddafi was killed in 2011 – thanks largely to a NATO-led military intervention — many mercenaries and Tuareg rebels who had supported him crossed the Sahara to return to Mali, further stressing the already weak government there.

Asked if the NATO’s involvement in Libya was partly to blame for the unrest in Mali, Panetta did not answer directly but said that al-Qaeda factions have demonstrated an ability to adapt by moving to new regions.

“With the turmoil in Mali, they found it convenient to use that situation to gain some traction there,” he told reporters on his plane while flying to Europe. “There’s no question as you confront them in Yemen, in Somalia, in Libya that they’ll ultimately try to relocate. The fact is, we’ve made a commitment that al-Qaeda is not going to find any place to hide.”

Panetta is scheduled to meet with NATO allies this week in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Britain in what he said is “likely” is last international trip as defense secretary. President Obama has nominated former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel to succeed him.

RELATED: La Folie Solami: Black Hawk Down… Part Deux

Mali Mayhem: ‘French post-colonial ambition to spark African anger’

January 15, 2013

Northern Mali was captured by Islamist militants nine months ago; the international community has been debating since then over what action should be taken. The conflict escalated last week when France launched its air assault to “maintain stability in the region.” Eric Margolis, an award-winning columnist who’s extensively covered conflicts in Africa, believes president Hollande is sensitive to France’s role as a former colonial power in Mali.

La Folie Solami: Black Hawk Down… Part Deux

January 14, 2013

Peter SterryPeter Sterry
21st Century Wire
Jan 15, 2013

When it comes to post-modern military embarrassments and gallant non-events, Somalia often comes to mind. Then again, so do the French.

So it’s a wonder why the newly hand-picked head of state in Paris thought it pertinent to tread down that dirty African road which almost always ends in tears.

Ridley Scott’s box-office hit, Blackhawk Down, did rather well despite it’s obvious post-Desert Storm propagandising, custom-designed to get Americans angry about being losers on the world military stage – a true turning point (and traumatic viewing I’m told by my American friends) in US attitudes which no doubt helped to stoke the imperial madness of King George II of Texas, as he led America’s shameless effort into his father’s New American Century. But even with Scott being fed the brief from the Pentagon’s official film producer-in-residence, Jerry Bruckenheimer, most people with intimate knowledge of the actual event will tell you that the film was still a romantic portrayal of a totally shambolic and horrific misadventure.

MIA: Fench spook has gone missing (notice the ‘intel center’ logo on the video – could be staged).

Indeed, the first Somali Follie marked the last time that Washington would ever bother all that much with collateral damage, or putting soldiers in the line of fire – let alone considering an actual Hollywood-style rescue. No, those are left exclusively to the likes of Bruckenheimer. It’s not that there are any brave soldiers left, it’s just become way too risky and even more messy. Any future ops would be stage-managed, and deploy scorched earth policies etc, so as to leave no witnesses in case the op went bad…

Forget about Seal Team 6 and the infamous Bin Laden Raid – that wasn’t  (Obama still can’t find the photos and video of the terror kingpin who according to multiple official admissions, died between 2001 and 2002), Washington will just send in the Drones to either level, or vaporise any moving animal within the blast zone. This technique has proved to work particularly well for weddings and funerals in Pakistan over the last half decade. The worst thing that can happen in this new unmanned military paradigm is that the US Army’s 22 year old play station expert in holed-up Nevada CENTCOM gets a head ache and accidentally crashes his drone into the side of a hill in Baluchistan. But I digress…

Hollande: Does he look like a hardcore military planner?

Busy attacking his country’s upper tier with a 70% tax bracket, the somewhat receding French President Francois Hollande hasn’t been in power more than a few months… and he’s already challenging Sarkozy for the most hated man in France award. In short, he’s gone and done what any unpopular French President would do, and that’s going into some godforsaken destabilised former colonial African hell-hole to steel a bit of globalist glory.

So the French played the African Double Dip Lottery – going for a shady Somalian rescue, and also attempting to throw their weight around in  Mali’s latest civil war, losing at least one commando, a helicopter and its pilot on the same day – and lost both times – for now, at least.

A Bad Day for Hollande

Hollande lost men in both operations – which in itself is tragic – particularly for the families of the men lost, but he also managed to lose the French secret agent hostage – or so the French papers say. 

Both operations ended as heroic failures. All in all, not a good day in military terms, and hard to believe the French public would back two epic failures like this. So what really happened on the day? Let’s break it down…

The French commando  operation in Somalia went horribly south following a fire fight with the latest Islamist Lenfant terrible, al-Shabab.

The secret agent-cum-hostage was identified by his cover name, ‘Denis Allex’, and is presumed to be dead – although the al-Shabab insist he is still alive and happily eating toasties and drinking his long-life milk from a box carton.

Sadly for Hollande and France, at least one French commando is reported to have gone missing during the operation.

Something smells very staged about this French agent – and I for one wouldn’t be surprised if the CIA were somehow involved at some stage in the hostage screen play – this, judging by the Intel Center logo embossed in the upper righthand corner in the hostage video. The CIA/Pentagon’s ‘media agency’, Intel Center is on record as manufacturing fake Osama bin Laden videos.

Meanwhile, deep in Mali, a French pilot was killed when rebels shot down his helicopter during a sortie.

Obama enjoying a fresh croissant after this past week’s joint failure with France in Somalia.

And what’s worse… we now find out that Hollande called Obama at the eleventh hour to ‘help out’.

According to today’s Washington Post, Obama was forced to admit his involvement with Hollande’s Blackhawk Down… Part Deux:

“In a letter to Congress, President Obama said U.S. combat aircraft “provided limited technical support” to French forces late Friday as they attempted to rescue a French spy who had been held captive for more than three years…

… Obama said the U.S. warplanes “briefly” entered Somali airspace but did not open fire and departed Somalia by 8 p.m. Friday, Washington time. He said he approved the mission but gave no other details.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the operation, said the combat aircraft were based at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, a small country on Somalia’s northwestern border.”

Mind you, with America’s dodgy track record in Somalia, why would the French ask them to help out rescuing their now not-so-secret agent (who is arguably still missing, so not officially dead yet)?

Vive Le AFRICOM!

Here’s a question which no one has asked yet: what on earth are French Secret Service agents doing running around in Somalia in the first place?

The US has AFRICOM so one would expect Washington to have ample spooks on the ground in all over Africa – in their manic drive to evict the Chinese from the Dark Continent. Pourquoi France? Non! French military excursions are normally confined to the Magreb. Somalia is traditionally a US and British patch.

At first glance this may look like a gallic cock-up, but look a bit closer to see how the Somali raid fits into a much bigger puzzle.

In Mali also, both the British and US militaries ran modules of this Operation in support of the French. Britain provided the use of its planes to transport troops, while the US supplied logistical support, including communications and transport.

It’s well known that the US have designs on countries like Mali, Uganda and others. So it appears that the US are now using the French (and the British) to fight their new proxy wars in Africa. What were Hollande or the French multi-nation corporations promised by Washington? Land? Mali’s utilities? A nuclear power plant contract?

This latest French hand-holding exercise in Africa simply reinforces the rolling trend currently among the allied NATO member states – a plethora of joint military pacts and exercises, where various countries are tasked perform certain compartmentalised tasks within a much larger strategic operation. This new method of neo-colonial intervention is effectively the initial steps towards the formation of a One World Combat Force, or Army, performing what is essentially a World Police function. In reality, what NATO allies are really doing is farming out the job of securing western transnational corporate interests in Africa.

Our advice to Hollande is simple: play to your strengths next time. French elites would be none the wiser to airlift two tons of halal fromage (Chevre and a few large wheels of Camembert should do) and a twelve cases of your most excellent Beaujolais nouveau – a gift to those Al Shababs to soften them up before you hit them with the Ricarde.

Sadly, however, Hollande was left to do the only thing he could – a ‘full American’, which is code for killing many Muslims overseas – including civilians and children. This, he will quickly discover, can score some cheap political points back at home, and just like a weak Roman Emperor, it will make him look ‘strong’… temporarily. Hence, today we hear that very thing has actually happened – French Rafale fighter jets are said to have “pounded insurgent training camps, arms and oil depots” yesterday in Mali, but with some collateral damage – at least 11 civilians including three children.

“Mali is now at the mercy of the French army,” said one official in Bamako.

The French are learning fast – kill, and kill often. It’s worked for the US for the last decade, and still no one seems to mind back at home.

That’s what you can expect – from your new One World Army.

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